District News

2011-12 Budget Questions and Answers

 

Q. How is the school district doing in this tough economy?

A. Four years ago, our district faced a $651,000 deficit. At that time, we embarked on a course to return to fiscal security. The cuts we made, the taxes you paid, and the policies we followed now leave us in a better position to address the problems that currently face all school districts. We now have a fund balance and it cannot come at a better time because school aid in New York State was cut by $1.3 billion in 2011-12. Our district’s state aid was reduced by $661,201 from 2010-11 to 2011-12. And last year, we saw a reduction of $429,334 from the previous year.

Q. Are there staff reductions in the budget?

A. Eight teaching positions — six fulltime and two part-time are eliminated in the budget. Two elementary teachers resulting in one fewer section in grades two and three. Due to declining enrollment, class sizes will not significantly increase. One high school science teacher. One middle school social studies teacher. That class will be taught by current staff. One half-time secondary music teacher and one half-time high school business teacher. One elementary remedial reading teacher. Existing staff will fill the role. One middle school special education teacher. Existing staff will fill that role. These changes do not reflect the possibility of teacher retirements. Should the retirements come in the appropriate areas, these cuts would not result in people losing their jobs.

Q. Will sports be affected?

A. We regard sports as an arena to teach important life lessons. Like all areas, from academics to the arts, we have reduced our sports budget. There will be fewer contests at the JV level and some teams will be eliminated.

Q. What other cost-saving measures have been taken?

A. Canajoharie contracted with the central business office at ONC BOCES to handle routine business functions such as payroll, bills, and bookkeeping. This consolidation of services saves the district about $150,000 each year. The district continues to lease buses instead of purchasing them. This enables the district to pay for buses from a reserve fund rather than having to raise taxes.
Canajoharie buys energy, supplies, and services jointly with other school districts and municipalities to secure better pricing. Our schools reduced field trips and froze all unnecessary spending. The district is exploring every opportunity to save money and reduce expenses.

Q. How will the budget impact taxes?

A. The proposed budget will increase the overall tax levy by no more than four percent. Property tax rates will vary among the eight townships in the district based on assessments and equalization rates.

Q. Does this mean my taxes will go up four percent?

A. Not necessarily. We project the tax levy (the total amount the district raises in taxes) will increase by no more than four percent — the worst-case scenario with hopes that the increase will be less. How that increase impacts the tax rates within each of our eight municipalities will depend on changes in individual and town-wide assessments and local equalization rates.

Q. Why are taxes rising faster than the cost of living?

A. The steps we have taken to reduce staff and expenses have actually lowered our expenditures. We will spend $70,800 less in 2011-12 than we did last year. We could not, however, fully offset the loss of state aid— even by cutting staff and programs and using of an additional $367,392 in fund balance. Had we received the same amount of state aid as we did in the past, we would not have to raise taxes.

Q. What happened to the federal jobs funds?

A. The state of New York didn’t release the federal education jobs funds to districts until after the beginning of the 2010-11 fiscal year. We have $265,000 left over from that which will be applied to 2011-12 budget. This is the last of any anticipated federal monies.

Q. What are we getting for our investment?

A. We continue to be an area leader. Our test scores are among the top in the region. Our students are accepted into some of the nation’s finest universities. Our school continues to be recognized for its art, music, and athletic programs. Students who graduate from Canajoharie Central School are prepared for college, the workplace, and life.

Q. What happens in the future?

A. We do not expect any additional increases in government aid. In fact, we anticipate operating with less state aid than we received in any of the past three years. Also, there is a real possibility the state will adopt a two percent property tax cap in the near future. Despite those factors, we will continue our efforts to contain costs, improve efficiencies, and look for new ways to provide the same quality education residents have come to expect in Canajoharie.

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